11 February 2019

India among countries to benefit from US-China trade war: UN

Geneva: India is among the several countries that stand to benefit from the ongoing trade tensions between the world's top two economies - the US and China, the UN has said in its latest report. The US and China are locked in a trade war since President Donald Trump imposed heavy tariffs on imported steel and aluminium items in March last year, a move that sparked fears of a global trade war.

In response, China imposed tit-for-tat tariffs on billions of dollars worth of American imports.

The United Nations experts said Monday that the tit-for-tat trade dispute between China and the United States may do little to protect domestic producers in either country and could have "massive" implications on the global economy unless it is resolved.

Of the USD 250 billion in Chinese exports that are subject to US tariffs, only about six per cent will be picked up by firms in the US, according to a report by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

India Clears Procurement of 5,000 Anti-Tank Guided Missiles From France

By Franz-Stefan Gady

The Indian Defense Acquisition Council, the Ministry of Defense’s (MoD) principal procurement body chaired by Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, approved the procurement of 5,000 French-made second-generation MILAN anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM) on January 31.

The total value of the defense deal is estimated at over $167 million. The MoD did not announce when the new ATGM systems are expected to be introduced into service.

India’s Bharat Dynamics has license-built tens of thousands of MILAN ATGMs of different variants since the 1970s, and will manufacture the latest batch of missiles. The man portable MILAN 2T is capable of firing a 115 millimeter tandem high-explosive anti-tank warhead at armored targets at a distance of up to 2,000 meters. The 2T version, first introduced into service in the early 1990s, is reportedly able to penetrate reactive armor defenses.

India and Saudi Arabia Move Beyond Energy

By Vinay Kaura

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), is expected to visit India toward the end of the month, and his visit is likely to take the India-Saudi security and strategic partnership to a new level. Saudi Arabia has long been an important Indian trade partner; the Kingdom remains a vital source of energy for India, which imports almost a fifth of its crude oil requirement from Saudi Arabia. Enhanced security cooperation has added a new dimension in the bilateral ties between New Delhi and Riyadh.

The rise of jihadist extremism, the gradual decline of American power, and the rise of China have brought about transformational changes in India’s engagements with the Gulf region. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has demonstrated an increased willingness to cooperate with Saudi Arabia on a variety of security issues such as joint military exercises, intelligence sharing, counterterrorism, anti-money laundering, and terror financing. Modi has visited all the prominent Gulf countries in a bold attempt to engage them economically and strategically.

Russia says ready to help Taliban talks on US withdrawal

A top Russian diplomat has met with Taliban representatives and expressed Moscow's support for the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The meeting came after two days of talks between prominent Afghan figures and Taliban representatives in Moscow and contradictory statements about an immediate US forces pullout from the country.

A senior Taliban official said on Wednesday the United States promised to withdraw half of its troops from Afghanistan by the end of April, but later retracted the assertion.

Is the Taliban Prepared to Make Peace?

By John Walsh

For the last six months, Afghanistan has felt the stirring of something rare: if not peace, then the promise of its pursuit. President Ashraf Ghani invited the Taliban into negotiations without preconditions in February. Islamic scholars and Afghanistan’s neighbors rallied behind that offer in the subsequent months, while sit-ins, marches, and demonstrations broke out across Afghanistan, calling for an end to the country’s chronic conflict. For the first time in 40 years, the warring parties observed a nationwide cease-fire over three jubilant days in June.

The vital question throughout this period has been whether the Taliban insurgency is actually open to making peace. The group has sent mixed signals this summer—agreeing, on one hand, to the June cease-fire, as well as restarting direct talks with the United States, but all the while continuing its years-long refusal to negotiate with what it calls the illegitimate Afghan government. The Taliban did not formally accept a second cease-fire for the Eid al-Adha holiday in August, and the intensity of its military campaign has hardly flagged. What, then, does the Taliban ultimately want, and is its leadership sincere about peace talks? My own conversations with people close to, and in contact with, Taliban political figures in recent months suggest that there is a genuine, if temporary, opening for peace.

The United States’ Perpetual War in Afghanistan

By Tanisha M. Fazal and Sarah Kreps

In October, the U.S. intervention in Afghanistan will turn 17. The human and material costs of what has become the United States’ longest-ever war are colossal. More than 2,000 U.S. military personnel have been killed and over 20,000 have been injured. The UN estimates that nearly 20,000 Afghan civilians have been killed and another 50,000 injured since 2009 alone. The United States has spent some $877 billion on the war. The Trump administration’s recent initiative to seek direct peace talks with the Taliban—a first since the start of the war in 2001—highlights that Washington is actively looking for new ways to wind down its involvement in the conflict. But why has the U.S. intervention lasted so long in the first place?

Part of the answer is that Afghanistan’s toxic mix of “state collapse, civil conflict, ethnic disintegration and multisided intervention has locked it in a self-perpetuating cycle that may be simply beyond outside resolution,” as Max Fisher and Amanda Taub summarized in a New York Times post. But their diagnosis does not speak to a critical dimension of the conflict: namely, how the relative indifference of the U.S. public has allowed the war to drag on.

30-Year Anniversary of Soviet Withdrawal From Afghanistan: A Successful Disengagement Operation?

By Franz-Stefan Gady

The withdrawal of the Soviet 40th Army from Afghanistan from 1988 to 1989 was a militarily successful operation save one mistake.

30 years ago this month, on February 15, 1989, the last Soviet soldier crossed the Afghan-Soviet border marking the end of one of the bloodiest conflicts ever fought in Afghanistan’s history. Notably, the Soviet retreat from Afghanistan from May 1988 to February 1989 was not a route. Rather, it was a well-executed and carefully planned disengagement operation that would allow the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan (DRA) to survive for another three years after the end of the Soviet occupation. However, the public announcement of a rigid timetable for the withdrawal narrowed the Soviets options to respond to the changing military and political situation in the country.

Can Congress Constitutionally Restrict the President’s Troop Withdrawals?

By Ashley Deeks

As others have discussed on Lawfare, Congress recently has begun to feel its oats when it comes to U.S. foreign policy. In the wake of general dissatisfaction with President Trump’s decision to pull troops out of Syria, the Senate rebuked him by declaring that the Islamic State’s presence and activities in both Syria and Afghanistan continue to pose a national security threat. Though the measure warned against U.S. troop withdrawals, it did not mandate that the president cease withdrawing U.S. forces.

On the House side, though, Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski and Republican Rep. Van Taylor introduced a bill that would, if enacted, impose such obligations. The “Responsible Withdrawal From Syria Act” would prohibit the use of fiscal 2019 funds to draw down U.S. forces from Syria below 1,500 troops, unless the secretary of defense, secretary of state, and director of national intelligence submit a report to Congress addressing a range of policy and threat-related issues. Malinowski also introduced a bill that would prevent the president from reducing the number of U.S. troops in South Korea below 22,000.

Reports of Belt and Road’s Death Are Greatly Exaggerated

By Nadège Rolland

With the vast, ambitious investment project known as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China meant to pull the world closer, making itself the political and economic center of gravity for more than 60 countries within the project’s sweep. But domestic and international opposition to the initiative has mounted in the five years since President Xi Jinping announced its start. Intellectuals within China have expressed concerns about wasteful spending and overstretch. Several governments that were initially enthusiastic about Chinese investment have faced popular backlash to the terms of the loans and the potential for corruption. And the United States has recently joined countries in Europe and the Indo-Asia-Pacific region in an effort to counter the Chinese endeavor with an alternative investment scheme.

Why China Is Winning the 5G War

by Charles Duan

If America wants to lead in 5G, then it must clear the path for strong competition among leading American technology companies.

There is little doubt today that American superiority in the next generation of mobile communications, commonly called 5G, is a matter of extraordinary national concern. There is also little doubt that China is a strong competitor, already having outspent the United States by $24 billion and planning $411 billion in 5G investment over the next decade. The Chinese government has also laid out multiple national plans for establishing the country as a leader in mobile technology, and the Chinese firm Huawei is poised to be the top smartphone manufacturer by 2020.

Is China about to abandon its ‘no first use’ nuclear weapons policy?

The growing US-China naval arms race is putting pressure on Beijing to reconsider its long-standing nuclear policy, analysts say

But one source said that unlike the US, China is incapable of launching a pre-emptive strike and so has little choice but to retain “no first use” policy

Nuclear competition is brewing between the two countries as China makes gains in weapons development and Washington tries to limit Beijing’s military build-up in the South China Sea.

The United States is still decades ahead in nuclear weapons development but a successful test late last year of China’s new submarine-launched ballistic missile, the JL-3, is cause for concern in Washington.

Workers’ Activism Rises as China’s Economy Slows. Xi Aims to Rein Them In

By Javier C. Hernández

BEIJING — Factory workers across China are staging sit-insdemanding unpaid wages for “blood and sweat.” Taxi drivers are surrounding government offices to call for better treatment. Construction workers are threatening to jump from buildings if they don’t get paid.

With economic growth in China weakening to its slowest pace in nearly three decades, thousands of Chinese workers are holding small-scale protests and strikes to fight efforts by businesses to withhold compensation and cut hours. The authorities have responded with a sustained campaign to rein in the protests, and most recently detained several prominent activists in the southern city of Shenzhen late last month.

Such protests are a glaring example of the challenges the sharp economic slowdown poses to China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, who has aggressively promoted the “Chinese dream,” his signature vision of greater wealth and a fairer society.

Top General in Middle East Says He Wasn’t Consulted on Syria Withdrawal


U.S. Central Command commander Gen. Joseph Votel provided the first public confirmation that the Pentagon was caught by surprise by Trump’s December tweet.

The top U.S. commander in the Middle East on Tuesday told lawmakers that he was not consulted before President Trump abruptly announced the U.S. withdrawal from Syria.

It has been widely reported that the Pentagon was surprised by the move — delivered via a tweet in December — but U.S.Central Command commander Gen. Joseph Votel provided the first public confirmation during what will likely be his final appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“I was not aware of the specific announcement,” said Votel, who is retiring in the spring. “Certainly we are aware that he has expressed a desire and an intent in the past to depart Syria.”

Putin’s Game Plan in Ukraine

By Konstantin Skorkin

At the end of 2013, Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine’s president, postponed signing an association agreement with the European Union, choosing instead to pursue closer ties with Russia. Protesters began massing on Kiev’s central square, known as the Maidan. Weeks of tension spilling into violence culminated with Yanukovych’s ouster on February 22.

Russian President Vladimir Putin looked on with anger and alarm. Suppose that what had happened on the Maidan sparked similar protests in Russia?

Putin began to refer to the Ukrainian government as a “junta” in speeches. The term belonged to the Soviet propaganda lexicon: the Kremlin used it to describe the Latin American dictatorships the United States supported during the Cold War. Putin’s revival of this language marked a steep downturn in relations between Moscow and Kiev. Russian state-controlled media took up a propagandistic narrative, in which the new Ukrainian authorities were illegitimate and Russia would not hesitate to “protect” the Russian-speaking citizens of Ukraine from these “fascist usurpers.”

How Brexit ‘Backstop’ May Scotch May’s Withdrawal Deal

By Andrew Hammond

Albert Einstein is sometimes credited with having said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. The Brexit process may provide vindication of this over the Irish border issue.

Theresa May visited Belfast on Tuesday and Wednesday to stress her commitment, again, to ensuring there is no post-Brexit “hard border” in Ireland.

With the odds stacked against her bid to save her EU exit withdrawal deal, and possibly also her prime ministership, she is desperately seeking a breakthrough alternative to the “Irish backstop.”

The key challenge, which she will discuss with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels on Thursday, stems from the future status of the border between the Republic of Ireland (which will remain in the EU) and Northern Ireland (which is scheduled to leave the Brussels-based club along with England, Scotland and Wales at the end of next month).

NATO’s Make-Or-Break Moment

By Armen V. Sahakyan and Erik Khzmalyan

The recent meeting and subsequent signing of the Treaty of Aachen by President Macron and Chancellor Merkel is indicative of a growing rift within the Western collective defense system, as if the political fracturing was not enough. In their meeting, the two leaders gave further steam to the idea of establishing an EU army, which in the words of President Macron would defend the Old Continent, “with respect to China, Russia, and even the United States of America.”

This development comes at a time when the West is gearing up to mark the 70th anniversary since the creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO – one of the most enduring, cohesive, and sophisticated collective defense formations in history. With the original intent to serve as a bulwark against the threat of communism, the core national interests of some NATO members began shifting with the dissipating threat emanating from the USSR. The collapse of the Soviet Union deprived the member states of their overarching uniting purpose. Since the early 1990s, NATO’s mission evolved beyond military cooperation, taking on a new set of responsibilities including upholding human rights, democracy, and freedom globally. Ironically, this newfound noble quest has become a double-edged sword as it has ensured the continuity of the alliance, but in the meantime has not proven to be strong enough of an incentive to keep the organization bound.

The United States and World Order

Dr. Colin S. Gray

I suspect that most Americans do not really understand just how powerful the United States is in the world. With very few exceptions the United States plays a dominant leadership role just about everywhere. This condition warrants the description hegemonic (from the Greek) so considerable is the country’s lead internationally in most of the true foundations of power. With few exceptions, this American dominance has been a source of enormous net benefit to the world at large. In common with many other powers, even the United States has a few notable weaknesses, some of them, when regarded ironically, being largely a consequence of its relative greatness.

Quad Supports U.S. Goal to Preserve Rules-Based Order

By Derek Grossman

Following the first meeting in November 2017 of the resurrected Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad, the U.S. has been consistent in discussing the security objectives it seeks to promote through the consultations. However, U.S. interactions with other Quad partners—including fellow democracies Australia, India and Japan—have likely convinced Washington to repackage public presentation of the dialogue proceedings and manage its expectations of what the Quad can realistically achieve.

For now, the U.S. is probably content with simply using the Quad as a way to signal unified resolve against China’s growing assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific without directly antagonising Beijing. That may change in the future if U.S.–China relations deteriorate further or Beijing’s behaviour towards regional neighbours becomes even more aggressive.

Can Congress Constitutionally Restrict the President’s Troop Withdrawals?

By Ashley Deeks 

As others have discussed on Lawfare, Congress recently has begun to feel its oats when it comes to U.S. foreign policy. In the wake of general dissatisfaction with President Trump’s decision to pull troops out of Syria, the Senate rebuked him by declaring that the Islamic State’s presence and activities in both Syria and Afghanistan continue to pose a national security threat. Though the measure warned against U.S. troop withdrawals, it did not mandate that the president cease withdrawing U.S. forces.

On the House side, though, Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski and Republican Rep. Van Taylor introduced a bill that would, if enacted, impose such obligations. The “Responsible Withdrawal From Syria Act” would prohibit the use of fiscal 2019 funds to draw down U.S. forces from Syria below 1,500 troops, unless the secretary of defense, secretary of state, and director of national intelligence submit a report to Congress addressing a range of policy and threat-related issues. Malinowski also introduced a bill that would prevent the president from reducing the number of U.S. troops in South Korea below 22,000.

Globalization 4.0

By Klaus Schwab

The world today needs a new framework for global cooperation in order to preserve peace and accelerate progress. After the cataclysm of World War II, leaders designed a set of institutional structures to enable the postwar world to trade, collaborate, and avoid war—first in the West and eventually around much of the globe. Faced with a changing world, today’s leaders must undertake such a project again.

This time around, however, the change is not just geopolitical or economic in nature. The Fourth Industrial Revolution—the complete digitization of the social, the political, and the economic—is tugging at the very fabric of society, changing the way that individuals relate to one another and to the world at large. In this era, economies, businesses, communities, and politics are being fundamentally transformed.

Reforming existing processes and institutions will not be enough. Government leaders, supported by civil society and businesses, have to collectively create a new global architecture. If they wait, or simply apply a “quick fix” to repair the deficiencies of outdated systems, the forces of change will naturally develop their own momentum and rules, and thus limit our ability to shape a positive outcome.

The Paris Climate Agreement Needs a Bigger and Better Piggy Bank

Sagatom Saha

The latest United Nations climate talks held in Poland in December produced surprising progress toward developing the rulebook governing the Paris climate agreement. International negotiators added teeth to the accord by crafting a detailed system to catalogue national emissions, requiring new benchmarks for measuring and forecasting emissions, and mandating public multilateral and technical assessments. Nations will now have to uniformly track their emissions progress and expectations, with scrutiny from other governments and independent experts. 

But the next obstacle to climate action will be harder to overcome. There is no existing international financial institution capable of mobilizing enough money to finance national climate plans made under the Paris agreement. The U.N. should build on the momentum from Poland by creating a climate development bank to fill the gap. 

Attacking Artificial Intelligence: How To Trick The Enemy


ARLINGTON: With the US, Russia, and China all investing in Artificial Intelligence for their armed forces, people often worry the Terminator is going to come to life and kill them. But given the glaring vulnerabilities of AI, maybe the Terminator ought to be afraid of us.

“People are saying, ‘oh my god, autonomy’s coming, Arnold is going to be here, he’s going to be out on the battlefield on the other side,’” said Marine rifleman turned AI expert Mike Kramer. ”I don’t believe that. This is an attack surface.”

As Kramer and other experts told the NDIA special operations conference this morning, every time an enemy fields an automated or autonomous system, it will have weak points we can attack – and we can attack them electronically, without ever having to fire a shot.

Cyberattacks to watch for in 2019

By Bob Violino

Organizations will face cyber security threats in eight key areas in 2019, according to a newly released report from global consulting firm Booz Allen.

The firm asked its top analysts to identify the "blockbuster attacks" and threat landscape shifts that could change the face of cyber security this year, and included details in the 2019 Cyber Threat Outlook report.

Here are the eight key threats, along with steps organizations can take to address them, according to the firm:


In recent years, many governments have learned how to manipulate their opponents' opinions and decisions with cyber activity, sometimes called "information warfare." This activity encompasses a range of tactics, from orchestrating targeted breaches followed by data leaks to employing troll armies to push disinformation.

The age of hacking brings a return to the physical key

By: Jungwoo Ryoo 

(THE CONVERSATION) With all the news about accounts being hacked and other breaches of digital security, it’s easy to wonder if there’s any real way to keep unauthorized users out of our email and social media accounts.

Everyone knows not to use the same username and password combination for every account – though many peoplestill do. But if they follow that advice, people end up with another problem: way too many passwords to remember – 27 on average, according to a survey. That can lead to stress about password security, and even cause people to give up secure passwords altogether. It’s an ominous feeling, and a dangerous situation.

But there is hope, through what is called “two-factor authentication,” in which a user needs not only a login name and password but also another way to validate her identity, before being allowed to connect to, say, Gmail or Snapchat. That way, even an attacker who gets a user’s login name and password still can’t access the account.

Can we be sure we aren’t at war?


From cyber-warfare to organised crime, foreign powers can engage in a range of hostile acts without traditional weapons.

Look around you. The signs are everywhere. The Russian attack on Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury is the most obvious: carried out by named members Russian military intelligence, the GRU, it resulted in the death of Dawn Sturgess. Many more could have been killed by the Novichok poison they carried. 

Most forms of aggression are more covert, but nonetheless deadly. The cyber-attack on the Iranian nuclear enrichment facility at Natanz in the summer of 2010 using a worm is well known. One thousand machines were destroyed: 20 per cent of Natanz’s centrifuges, which had to be replaced. Probably carried out by the Israelis, with support from the United States, it was a major setback for the Iranians.

Trump’s Cyber Strategy Is Far Too Optimistic


The director of national intelligence’s threat assessment exposes two of its pillars as convenient fictions.

I used to think we didn’t have enough strategic documents guiding U.S. cyber policy. Now I think we have at least one too many. In September, the Trump administration published a National Cyber Strategy—proudly declaring that it was the first fully articulated cyber strategy in 15 years. This week, the annual intelligence threat hearing laid bare the fantasy world of that four-month-old document and the cold hard reality of, well, reality.

The National Cyber Strategy paints an aspirational view of how the U.S. is doing in cyberspace and what we should do in the future. To be fair, aspirational isn’t all bad. Strategy documents need to inspire, not depress. And the strategy’s four pillars seem as unobjectionable as motherhood and apple pie: defending the homeland and America’s way of life; promoting American prosperity; preserving peace through strength; and advancing American interests. Who could argue with that? The best strategies articulate a future world, lay out a pathway to get there, generate new ideas, and align the disparate elements of government on a common path to succeed. Given how hard it is to keep the government lights on these days, getting on the same page about anything is a big deal.

Huawei Sting Offers Rare Glimpse of the U.S. Targeting a Chinese Giant

by Erik Schatzker

The sample looked like an ordinary piece of glass, 4 inches square and transparent on both sides. It’d been packed like the precious specimen its inventor, Adam Khan, believed it to be—placed on wax paper, nestled in a tray lined with silicon gel, enclosed in a plastic case, surrounded by air bags, sealed in a cardboard box—and then sent for testing to a laboratory in San Diego owned by Huawei Technologies Co. But when the sample came back last August, months late and badly damaged, Khan knew something was terribly wrong. Was the Chinese company trying to steal his technology?

The glass was a prototype for what Khan’s company, Akhan Semiconductor Inc., describes as a nearly indestructible smartphone screen. Khan’s innovation was figuring out how to coat one side of the glass with a microthin layer of artificial diamond. He hoped to license this technology to phone manufacturers, which could use it to develop an entirely new, superdurable generation of electronics. Akhan says Miraj Diamond Glass, as the product is known, is 6 times stronger and 10 times more scratch-resistant than Gorilla Glass, the industry standard that generates about $3 billion in annual sales for Corning Inc. “Lighter, thinner, faster, stronger,” says Khan, in full sales mode. Miraj, he promises, will lead to a “fundamental next level in design.”

Which countries have the worst (and best) cybersecurity?


With so much of our information (including incredibly personal data) being found online, cybersecurity is of the utmost importance.

So just where in the world are you cyber safe – if anywhere?

Our study looked at 60 countries and found huge variances in a number of categories, from malware rates to cybersecurity-related legislation. In fact, not one country is “top of the class” across the board. All of the countries we analyzed could do with some significant improvements.

However, there were some countries that lacked significantly in a variety of areas and others who outperformed the majority of countries. So with that in mind, we’ve created rankings for these 60 countries, from the least cyber safe to the most cyber safe.
Our methodology: how did we find the countries with the worst cybersecurity?

The Key to Post-World War II US Strategic Thinking About Japan

By Robert Farley

How did the United States go about planning for Phase IV of the Pacific War?

Of course, Phase IV of U.S. World War II planning never existed, at least by that term. However, after the invasion of Iraq the term became short-hand for post-war reconstruction, or for failure to plan for post-war reconstruction. In contrast to the situation with Iraq, U.S. analysts began planning for the reconstruction and reintegration of Japan from even before the war began. As detailed by Dayna Barnes in Architects of Occupation (reviewed here by a group of scholars), the planning process included the State Department, the military, and the 1940s version of the think tank community. Although fraught with tension and difficulty, the process managed to restore Japan’s place in the international community while also largely demilitarizing its society.

DoD officials: Irregular warfare will no longer suffer a ‘boom-bust’ cycle in eras of great power competition

By: Kyle Rempfer

Retaining the U.S. military’s hard-fought knowledge of counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism was a priority for former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who helped design a new national defense strategy in 2018 that prioritizes countering peer-level adversaries like China and Russia.

“Sec. Mattis specifically wanted to end this boom-bust cycle in IW [irregular warfare] that we’ve all experienced,” Owen West, the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, said at a defense industry symposium Tuesday.

The boom-bust cycle refers to the U.S. military’s preference for fighting traditional, high-end forces, rather than insurgents, according to Andrew Knaggs, the Pentagon’s deputy assistant secretary of defense for special operations and combating terrorism.

“This default setting has left the DoD unprepared for irregular conflicts in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq,” Knaggs said. “We have often been slow to recognize the irregular character of these conflicts and have forced conventional approaches as the first response."